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Too many avoidable baby deaths

There are still too many avoidable stillbirths, baby deaths and brain injuries that occur during term labour in the United Kingdom finds the latest report from Each Baby Counts.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says of the report:

“There are still too many avoidable baby deaths and brain injuries occurring during term birth in the UK – even one preventable case is one too many. We owe it to each and every one affected to find out why these deaths and harms occur, in order to prevent future cases where possible."

Launched in 2014 by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Each Baby Counts is a national quality improvement programme that aims to reduce the number of babies who die or are left severely disabled as a result of incidents that happen during term labour.

The programme brings together the results of local maternity investigations into stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries to understand the bigger picture and share the lessons learned to prevent future cases.

The latest report, published this week, analysed 1,130 cases of babies who met the eligibility criteria, out of around 677,192 babies born at term in the UK in 2017.

The findings show there were:
130 (12%) stillbirths
150 (13%) babies born alive following labour but died within the first 7 days after birth
850 (75%) babies who had a severe brain injury

Improvement in care needed


These figures show little improvement over the last five years.  More disturbing is the number of cases (72%) where differences in care might have led to a better outcome.
 
Parents being invited to contribute to the local review rose to 493 (50%) of cases in 2017, compared with 34% in 2015.

The number of local reviews that contained sufficient information for analysis has grown year on year, 95% in 2017 from 75% in 2015.

Common factors in poor outcomes


A further analysis found that of the babies for whom different care might have led to a different outcome, there was an average of nine contributory factors.

The most commonly identified factors included a lack of timely recognition of women and babies at risk, communication problems, training and education issues, human factors and inadequacies related to the monitoring of the baby’s well-being during labour.

Detailed analysis of 986 fully completed local reviews revealed 358 (36%) cases of a failure to identify a high risk situation, escalate appropriately and transfer a woman and/or baby in a timely way.

Successful clinical escalation of a woman and baby at risk of harm is essential. With the right medical intervention, at the right time, maternity care can ensure the safest possible outcome for a mother and her baby.

Recommendations from the report focus on complex clinical and non-clinical factors that need to be improved, including better team working and behaviour, addressing workload and workforce challenges, and improving communication among maternity teams.

Michelle Hemmington, Each Baby Counts Advisory Group Parent Representative and Co-founder of Campaign for Safer Births, says:

“I urge everyone who reads this report to not just look at this from a professional point of view but from the perspective of parents who have been devastated by avoidable incidents. Errors in care are life changing and life damaging and we must do all we can to improve.”

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